12 December 2008

NYC - a first visit

"Standing at IAH, ready for our big trip to NYC" ...

Friday the 5th
- I'm heading into the terminal with Kathleen, and security tells me I'm in the wrong line, so we rapidly part as I race for the other side ... I'm only minutes from boarding
- the flight to Cincinnati is short, but on a little commuter plane where the
over head is miniaturized, and we had only one attendant
- the guy beside me was playing his music so loud, even through the speakers he was waking me up
- once we land (that area has really interesting geography, btw, obviously a river bed, though I never saw the river ... no high ground) we walk down the stairs, which I haven't done since Hawaii, and into this temporary terminal ... follow the signage to my next terminal, which requires a bus ride as the terminals are not interconnected
- the flight to JFK is on a much larger, but much emptier plane, I have my row to myself
- at JFK we sit on the runway waiting for a gate to open, and finally get into NYC ... not bad
- a very kindly officer showed me around as I had not been able to pinpoint Kathleen's terminal beforehand ... so I collect my luggage and head off on the SkyTrain to find my friend ... everything is fairly well marked, but it helped to have employees to stop and question to make sure I'm not headed in the wrong direction, I haven't run into a rude New Yorker yet

Here's a photo of the luggage attendant waiting for me at terminal 2:

- find Kathleen's exit spot and get a little reading in while her plane circles the city
- we meet up, hit the subway systems ($25 for a week's unlimited ride pass), reach the hostel, check-in, dump luggage, and run to feed ... a place called Mama's Pizza (where I call family to let them know we arrived safe and sound)
- back to hostel to crash, but the other tenants are so noisy, I'm just know I won't be able to sleep a wink ... shortly thereafter, I fall fast asleep and barely stir all night long

"Kathleen in the kitchen"

Saturday, the 6th
- slowly awaken to the morning
- Kathleen makes a breakfast and snack run to the local grocery store and we get ready for the day
- New York sight seeing: Grand Central Station, Chrysler bldg, Fred F French bldg, a Sephora Store, and Rockefeller Center with a visit to the top, "Top of the Rock" ... $20
- we wander down to the tenement museum to get tickets, but they sell same day only (something that never made sense on the three phone calls I placed that morning)
- back to the hostel to prep for our evening meal at Chef Matteo's "4 Course Vegan" gourmet, where we had dinner with several lovely people ... btw, dinner was delish and Kathleen enjoyed it as well, the chef is a busy man
- walk back to the subway, and it is snowing, delighting us both to no end
- the subway is shutting down some stops for maintenance, and we have to figure out an alternate way home (Kathleen's subway savvy comes in very useful)
- we make it back sometime after midnight, that subway is packed (obviously those movies showing scary, spooky, empty late night subway cars are using a LOT of artistic license ... a LOT)

"How you shop for Christmas trees in NYC." ... view along our walking route to reach the subway ...

Sunday the 7th
- get prepped for another day outside
- the morning greets us with a small flurry of snow flakes, and this from a day that was supposed to see no precipitation
- a couple of subway trips find us not too far from the tenement museum
- I'm a bit disturbed by all the noise on the subway, it doesn't bother Kathleen, she likes the ambiance it adds ... I'm more used to silence, so the drumming, singing, and speakered guitar playing irritates me (the sax and acoustic guitars are not nearly as intrusive, and I do enjoy them)

- the Tenement Museum was a must see on both of our lists, we took the "Piecing it Together" tour which covered some of the early home sweatshop development in the garment district; it was important for me to see what some of my ancestors may have experienced ... I know I have German, Scottish, Irish, and Portuguese ancestry from across the pond

I even wrote down a list of books that interested me, I'll borrow them from the library:
Lipstick Jihad
Persian Girls
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Literature from the Axis of Evil
A Long Way Gone
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
How does it feel to be a problem? Being Young and Arab in America

I tried to find some souvenirs for my family in the museum gift shop, but honestly, what do you get for people who have everything they want and need?

- go to TKTS and get "Perfect Crime" tickets for half off
- At the end, Kathleen remarked how good the dress fit on Lionel, and that she couldn't see why the play was still running 21 years later; this did not come across as appreciation to my ears ... though I admit to approving of Lionel's red dress as well, it was particularly neat around his bicep/ armhole area; further query over dinner revealed she had enjoyed the puzzling/misdirection of the show, but could not see why the actress had played the show for so long (same actress + same role + 21 years = something's funny ... hm, I see her point)
- stop at gift shops on the way back to the subway at Times Square, and saw some interesting t-shirts, but still could not find anything for family
- Times Square is even crazier than you've seen on TV, people are everywhere! We've decided that anyone who drives in Manhattan is nuts, there are just too many pedestrians, and they don't care about the cars.
- visit Turkuar (Turkish) restaurant for a nice dinner, we had a long time to sit and chat (they were good at finding options for me)

"Christmas Tree at Bryant Park" ...

Monday, the 8th
- up at 7:30 for fabric shopping
- first stop downstairs for breakfast
- off for fabric overload
- It is cold ... the high today is supposed to be 38, I don't believe them (later research showed a high of 30 for the day, and an average of 25.5 ... brrrr)
- off to Mood fabrics where I found shirting and pant fabrics, Kathleen found gorgeous feeling linen, belt, and sheath fabrics
- On to Ann's favorite Metro and the lovely Kashi who has sumptuous woolens, but nothing that seemed to suit my coloring, until Kathleen found this heavenly rayon lycra burnt orange for me
- waltz through M&J trimming since it is on the way
- then we went to the restaurant recommended by a friend, "Le Pan Quotidient" ... excellent meal
- we stroll to Bryant Park across the street and look through their basically open air market, which was fun to browse (I got a gift for BH), but left us numb and verrry slow (neither one of us could feel our feet)
- head to Spandex House, where the term "customer service" has never been heard. We both leave with two lengths of knit ... we worked so hard getting that blue of Kathleen's out from under a ton of bolts, that neither of us has been warmer on this trip (the guy eating his lunch 10 feet away must have enjoyed our struggle too much to help)
- head back to hotel loaded down; eat at Indian Restaurant "Indus Valley", it was a lovely evening and we enjoyed each others company immensely

"Our stash, is a very, very, very nice stash!"

Tuesday the 9th
- awaken to the alarm and a mouse rooting around in my purse ... I guess it is a good thing I left the purse open, I've seen what kind of damage those little teeth can do!
- a walk through Central Park starts our day off
- we catch a bus to the Frick Collection, which is interesting - his house and some of the artwork he collected through his lifetime ... BUT, here's where I found the rude New Yorkers: the museum staff wouldn't tell you what procedure was and got frustrated when you were confused, the burgundy coated Nazis (BH says call them Fascists!), aka "room security", was skewed to men and they were NOT helpful ... no one could answer my questions: why does the door have a spring, was it the first automatic door closer?, why are all the books covered in place mats?, and how often are all the clocks checked for timing?
- to top the experience off, I was in the dining room (where the carpet is bordered by approx. two feet of wooden floor, which I stepped onto in order to get a better look at the shades and I'm still at least half a foot away from touching anything) when a burgundy coat came by and said, "Please don't step off the carpet?" ... And I'm all, "Um, how am I supposed to get out of the room, then?" So when I left that room, I made a big production about stepping waaaaay over the wood border to reach the next room. Thank goodness for long legs. Anyway, I saw previously unknown paintings by artists that I recognize (Degas, Whistler, Vermeer, etc.), and Kathleen and I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting:

* the art, which had us uttering comments such as, "her bodice would be falling off" and "where's her chaperone?"
* the furniture, "they just don't make assemble it yourself furniture like they used to" - for the table having a misplaced nail, and "they got a deal on that green trimming, it covers every bit of that chair"
* the sculpture, "Diana really needs a quiver of arrows to go with her bow, it is kinda useless otherwise", and "the Greek and Roman gods (and bastards and family) must be too good for clothes, seeing as they never wear any"

Kathleen gleefully pointed out the frustrated landscape artists, whose portrait backgrounds were rich and diverse. She is quite educated with the art that piques her interest.

I took "Art History" during my first degree, and I can appreciate art for art's sake (... usually ... I don't get Rothko type "modern art," I have no appreciation for that glorified kids' play what-so-ever). However, it was nice to be visiting an art collection with someone who saw the quirkier aspects of art. I don't think I was too badly misbehaved.

- then we headed to the Met to get Kathleen's hubby's Christmas present ... Shhh, don't tell him ... but you could nickname the present "Knut". The Met was pretty busy, but I'm not sure it is worth a visit (it strongly reminded me of stories of the Louvre ... too many people to actually enjoy the trip).
- Then we caught the bus north to reach "The Cloisters" which rests at the far north of the island of Manhattan. The bus trip showed us a different side of the Manhattan, and I strongly encourage others to take the trip. You miss so much when you are underground in the subway system. If you have the time, a bus gives you a much better understanding of the architecture and layout of the city.
- "The Cloisters" is this stone effigy built to house medieval art and stone work. There's a lot of monastic architecture in that building, as well as gory religious iconography, a lot of vigins with child, and the unicorn tapestries ... I wish we knew the stories behind those tapestries and the artists' intentions. The building, furniture and fiber work in "The Cloisters" interested me most, but everything was worth a look. Kathleen pointed out that the uneducated peasants at the time could decipher the images so much better than ourselves (as subjects were identified by what they carried or what they were depicted with in the image). So much of our world comes to us via the written word now, but the uneducated masses had only imagery to study.
- We headed back towards the hostel with the intention of eating and during a subway transfer Kathleen made the train at 125th Street, but I did not. I waited and waited for my correct train to arrive (I needed a local for two stops, and everything was express). Finally the train arrived, which kept me from walking the twenty or so blocks. And Kathleen was waiting at the other end. So no worries about trying to find her. She had watched the express trains closely for me, in case I had gotten on the wrong one (my navigation skills are puny compared to Kathleen's, it doesn't hurt that she's been riding subways for more than a decade in total). She breathed a sigh of relief when I stepped off the correct train. :) Crises averted.
- We eat again at Indus Valley. We stopped by a Thai restaurant first, but they couldn't accommodate my special needs, or the girl we talked to had no idea what I was asking (I've run into one other Thai restaurant that put fish sauce in everything, so it could be either answer). We then walked over to the Turkish restaurant to peak through their menu again, but Kathleen wanted me to have a larger selection (isn't she awesome!), and we had our last New York meal together in the window table at the Indian restaurant.

Wednesday the 10th
- up at 7:30 am
- slept okay, but did awaken a couple of times in the night, there are some noisy guys down this hall
- Kathleen has run to the post office (to post Christmas gifts to Perth) and to grab a spot of breakfast. She needs to head out a bit before myself, as she has sightseeing left and I go to the trains to wrestle my luggage to the airport. Fabric is amazingly heavy!
- Kathleen caught the C headed south/downtown with me and we parted at 42nd street station, she stayed on while I transferred to the E headed uptown/Queens ... knowing your Burroughs comes in handy when navigating the subway system.
- My flight to Cincinnati was fairly uneventful, though when the pilot dropped the wheels in deep cloud cover I felt a little uneasy ... we broke through close to the ground and landed with barely a hiccup. Whew. I hoofed my way to my next flight, luckily I didn't need to switch terminals ... just after the flight is called for first boarding, we're told the Houston airport is experiencing weather delays, and our departure has been put off ... 20 minutes ... 50 minutes ...
- we begin boarding and depart by 5:30 pm ... it has been snowing in Houston and it is supposed to reach 31 degrees tonight, should I wrap pipes when I get home?

"Bye, Bye Kathleen ... until next time"

Things I learned about NY:
- the "rude" New Yorker is harder to find than you would imagine
- these old buildings don't ventilate very well, expect to smell like dinner for your entire trip
- the subway is fairly easy to navigate, just have an idea which Burrough is which
- there are smokers, a LOT of smokers, in this city ... and they don't care where the smoke goes, who brushes up against their cigarette (the fashionable and non hold their cancer sticks at hip level), or where their butts go (I looked through a street grate while walking, and the butts are stacked inches high ... very gross.)
- you do get used to the craziness, by day two the crush of people seems normal
- every guy carries a bag here, I guess when you don't have a vehicle you can't depend on your pockets alone ... murses don't carry the negative stigma here that they tend to engender in other parts of the U.S., like the South (cough, cough)
- be prepared for odd people on the subway, we've been serenaded by a loud quartet, and I've been subjected to a religious lecture from the guy wandering car to car

Would I recommend New York? Absolutely ... I can't wait to go back.

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